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Breed Restrictions And Your German Shepherd

One thing you definitely want to consider before getting a German Shepherd – or moving to a new place with a German Shepherd – is where you want to live.

If you plan to rent an apartment (or sometimes even a house), your dog may not be welcome due to breed restrictions for apartments.

Allie and I are lucky – where we live, German Shepherds are a popular dog breed. However, because breed restrictions are so widespread, I’ve still encountered some places where breed restrictions are in full force.

This article will go over all you need to know about breed restrictions, including the most common places you’ll encounter them.

As a bonus, I’ve included an aggressive breed list for renters to reference when looking for a place to live. While laws vary widely, its good to have a general overview of breed restrictions and how they affect you and your German Shepherd.

What Are Dog Breed Restrictions?

Just as the name suggests, breed restrictions place a ban on certain types of dogs. They are commonly used to ban a breed from living in certain places (like an apartment), but they may also apply to other places as well.

The exact definition of breed restrictions (according to is “a law or statute that equates the qualities of a dangerous dog with a certain breed and bans or restricts certain breeds based on identity, not behavior, of a specific animal.”  

This definition gives you a better idea of the problem with these types of restrictions – they judge an entire breed of dog by the actions of only a few. Dogs are not considered on an individual basis.

Why Are Dog Breed Restrictions In Place?

The purpose of breed restrictions (again, from is to “discourage, restrict, or prohibit certain breeds of dogs which are defined as “dangerous” within certain jurisdictions.”

In other words, breed restrictions are an effort to protect people from “aggressive” dogs. By banning these breeds from certain places, lawmakers, landlords, and others hope to lessen the chance of a dog bite or attack.

What exactly defines a dangerous or aggressive dog?

Different jurisdictions have different definitions. German Shepherds are often targeted by these laws because they’re commonly used as protection or in military/law enforcement work.

In my opinion, this gives many breeds the undeserved reputation of being automatically labeled as aggressive. Although I think certain breeds may be more prone to aggressive behavior, I don’t think all dogs of any particular breed is aggressive.

Do Dog Breed Restrictions Work?

Most studies agree that breed specific legislation (BSL) is not actually very effective at increasing public safety against dog bites or attacks. Here are several problems associated with breed restrictions and legislation:

  • While specific breeds were bred for specific reasons (herding, guarding, etc.), there is still something to be said for nurture over nature.
    • Just because a dog is of a certain breed does not immediately make it an aggressive attack animal. There are plenty of people who own “aggressive” breeds and never have an issue with their furry pal showing signs of aggression.
  • Where do mixed-breed dogs fit into this discussion? A mixed-breed dog may look like a banned breed, but it may not have the genetics of that breed.
    • Can you ban a dog based solely on its looks? This ambiguity also makes these laws very difficult to enforce.
  • There are also a lot of negative consequences associated with BSL. For example, people may abandon their dogs if they’re moving somewhere new where their dog is not allowed.
    • This increases the number of dogs in shelters or left out on the streets. People may also try to hide their dog indoors and potentially even neglect their vet care to keep their dog a secret.
  • Breed restrictions are unfair to responsible dog owners – those who train their dogs and treat them with love and respect. Aggressive dogs are many times the results of irresponsible dog ownership.
    • For example, an irresponsible owner may allow their dog to roam free – this often leads to a dog bite or attack, especially from an unaltered male. Abuse and neglect can also lead to aggression in dogs, as can a lack of proper training.

Unfortunately, it seems that these laws seem to do little to improve the safety of the public, not to mention the safety of the dogs. Instead, they create a false sense of security.

Despite all of this, breed restrictions are most likely here to stay – so you must be aware of these laws, especially if you own (or plan to own) a German Shepherd.  

What Places Typically Have Dog Breed Restrictions?

Not long ago, I was making plans for a short trip and Allie needed a place to stay. Because Allie is so lovable (really, everyone loves her!), a friend offered to doggy-sit.

Fortunately, I was aware of breed restrictions and told her to double check that her apartment manager didn’t have a restriction against German Shepherd.

Sure enough, after checking her lease, my friend discovered that German Shepherds are a restricted breed at her complex.

While breed restrictions at apartments are common, that’s not the only place you may encounter breed restrictions. Check out this list for other places where your German Shepherd may not be allowed.

  • Condos
  • Other rentals (single-family homes, duplexes, etc.)
  • Hotels
  • Entire cities, counties, or states
  • Military housing
  • Dog parks

What Dog Breeds Are Typically Considered “Aggressive” Breeds?

As I mentioned, dog breeds are typically banned because they are viewed as aggressive, but some breeds may also be restricted simply because they are considered too big or strong.

Here is an aggressive breed list for renters to reference when deciding on a dog breed or when choosing a place to live (and yes, German Shepherds are on the list).

  • German Shepherds
  • Rottweilers
  • Pit Bull Terriers
  • Staffordshire Terriers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Chows
  • Presa Canarios
  • Mastiffs
  • Cane Corsos
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Akitas
  • Alaskan Malamutes
  • Great Danes
  • Wolf Hybrids

It’s also important to note that your homeowners’ insurance may have dog breed restrictions with a similar list of aggressive breeds. This means your insurance premium may increase if you own a dog on this list. Or the company may not cover any damage caused by an “aggressive” dog, period.

What Are The Laws On Dog Breed Restrictions?

More than 30 states currently have breed specific legislation (BSL) in effect on either a statewide level or in certain cities.

Examples of breed specific legislation:

  • Louisiana has 32 cities with breed bans. In fact, the City of Crowley includes German Shepherds on its restricted breed list.
  • Iowa has the most cities with breed specific legislation – 72 cities in this state outlaw at least one breed. While the majority of these cities go after pit bulls in their legislation, Fairfield includes German Shepherds on its list, as well as any dog who weighs over 100 pounds.
  • In Denver, Colorado, no one is allowed to own a pit bull or any dog displaying the same physical traits as a pit bull.
  • In North Little Rock, Arkansas, the ownership of rottweilers, pit bulls, or bull terriers is restricted, owners of these breeds must pay a licensure fee of $500.

There are some states that have more tolerable laws in place that do not restrict specific breeds; instead, these laws focus on the dogs’ actual conduct with “dangerous dog” laws. This is the case in several states, such as Nevada, Arizona, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Legal Challenges To Breed Specific Legislation:

A number of different cases have come up over the past decade attempting to fight breed restriction legislation on constitutional grounds.

However, most of these arguments eventually fail in court. Below is one prime example that went all the way to the Supreme Court.

In 2008, in the City of Toledo v. Tellings, pit bull advocates tried to argue that Toledo’s laws about pit bulls were unconstitutional on several grounds.

Here are a few of the arguments that were made in court against the breed specific legislation:

  • Void for Vagueness: The pit bull advocacy group argued that the breed restriction legislation was too vague. In order to satisfy due process (according to the constitution), a law must clearly explain which acts are allowed and which are prohibited. The Tellings case argued that it was too difficult to determine which dogs were pit bulls and which were not. However, the Supreme Court rejected this defense and declared that a pit bull can be identified by physical and behavioral traits.
  • Substantive Due Process: This means that there is a constitutional limit to the controls that the government can place on its citizens. Pit bull advocates believed that a law governing dogs was not rationally related to the government interest. However, the Supreme Court found that the city’s goal was to protect humans from dog attacks and that regulating pit bulls was directly related to that goal because pit bulls “cause a disproportionate amount of danger to people.”
  • Equal Protection of the Laws: Under this clause, the government can’t apply the law in different ways to different people. The argument against the Toledo restriction was that it violated equal protection because not all pit bulls are uniformly vicious. In addition, other breeds also bite, but the law only restricts pit bulls, which unfairly singles out this breed. However, the Supreme Court disagreed – the court found that the special classification of pit bulls doesn’t deny equal protection because it has a rational relationship to the law’s goal of keeping people safe.

Overall, the most important takeaway is that breed restriction legislation is most likely here to stay, so it’s important that anyone and everyone who owns a breed restricted dog should be well-informed of these laws.

What Can I Do If My Dog Is Banned?

If you already have a dog on the aggressive breed list, then there are a few other things you can try when trying to rent an apartment. While these aren’t guaranteed to work, it’s worth a shot!

  • Request a pet interview.
  • Provide references to vouch for your pooch.
  • Offer to pay pet rent.
  • Secure extra renter’s insurance.
  • Use DNA testing if your dog looks like an aggressive breed (but isn’t).
  • Make sure your dog has proper training.
  • Check into additional coverage through homeowners’ or renters’ insurance.

Another important note: Breed restrictions aren’t the only laws you should be aware of if you own a German Shepherd.

Check with your apartment community or landlord in case there are size restrictions for pets. Additionally, if you have a dog who loves to bark, you could get in trouble if there are noise ordinances in your city.  

Final Thoughts

In general, your best defense against breed restrictions is simply awareness – know where your German Shepherd is and isn’t welcome.

If you’re planning on moving or getting a new German Shepherd, take into consideration any breed restrictions (or other restrictions) that may affect your dog.

In addition, make sure your German Shepherd is well-behaved. Training and proper discipline go a long way in how a dog (especially a dog often listed as “aggressive”) is perceived by others.

Be a responsible dog owner, not only for the safety of others but also for the safety of your four-legged family member.

Have you been any places where you German Shepherd wasn’t welcomed? let me know in the comments!


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